Stop Looking For An ‘Earth 2.0,’ Say Scientists As They Detect An Even Better ‘Superhabitable’ World

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Our planet is the best there is, right? Not necessarily, say researchers at Washington State University who have produced a list of 24 planets outside our Solar System that are not only Earth-like, but may even be better than Earth. 

The list—which is intended to be a “to do” list for a bunch of powerful telescopes due to go live in the next few years—includes planets that are older, a little larger, slightly warmer and possibly wetter than Earth, and which orbit stars with longer lifespans than our Sun. 

The researchers—whose work is published this week in the journal Astrobiology—think the worlds in the list contain some that could be called “super-habitable.” That means they could be places where life could more easily thrive than on Earth. 

Cue an MVP—Most Valuable Planet—which is likely to be larger than Earth and easier to detect than Earth-like planets. 

If we want to find life elsewhere in the galaxy then “superhabitable” planets may deserve higher priority than most Earth-like planets, say the researchers. 

How could another planet possibly be more suitable for life than Earth? To an Earthling with only one reference point, it sounds like a crazy question.

Here’s everything you need to know about the search for “super-habitable” planets where life may not only exist, but thrive. 

Where are the ‘super-habitable’ planets? 

Sadly, all of the 24 planets are in star systems that are over 100 light-years from the Solar System. The researchers went through the list of the over 4,500 known exoplanets in our Milky Way. They didn’t look for life, but only for the general conditions that would be conducive to complex life—defined as


There May Be Two Dozen Superhabitable Planets Outside the Solar System, According to Scientists

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There May Be Two Dozen Superhabitable Planets Outside the Solar System, According to Scientists

They’re more than 100-light-years away!

Looking for a safe place to travel on vacation with your family? Instead of an island getaway or road trip across the country, how about any of the 24 recently discovered superhabitable planets in outer space? Astronauts have discovered two dozen planets that are capable of sustaining human life, according to a report published in the journal Astrobiology. The study, which was led by Washington State University geobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, found that these “super-habitable” worlds are older, larger, warmer, and moister than Earth.

Getty / Lev Savitskiy

“With the next space telescopes coming up, we will get more information, so it is important to select some targets,” said Schulze-Makuch in a statement. “We have to focus on certain planets that have the most promising conditions for complex life. However, we have to be careful to not get stuck looking for a second Earth, because there could be planets that might be more suitable for life than ours.”

Related: Astronomers Discovered a New Planet Deep in the Galaxy That Could Be Another Earth

Each of the 24 planets met a certain list of criteria pre-determined by researchers. One of the key factors is that all of the planets exist in the habitable orbit around a star where liquid water can exist due to an ideal temperature. Other conditions that were considered for a superhabitable planet include the life expectancy of the host star; size and mass of the planets; and surface temperature of the planets. The planets are all also significantly larger than Earth, which means that there is even more habitable land available. The warm temperature and larger mass could also mean that the planets are well suited to supporting


Scientists find promising ‘superhabitable’ planets that may be ‘better’ than Earth

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This illustration shows an Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star.

NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

When you title a research paper “In Search for a Planet Better than Earth,” you’re not messing around. Earth, the only place we know for sure hosts life, sets a high bar for all other planets. 

Washington State University (WSU) geobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch led a study published in the journal Astrobiology last month. The paper identifies two dozen exoplanets (planets located outside our solar system) that could be “superhabitable” worlds more suitable for life than our own.

The researchers created a set of criteria for planets to qualify as potentially superhabitable. This list includes an age of between 5 billion and 8 billions years old (Earth is about 4.5 billion years old) and a location within a star’s habitable zone where liquid water could exist. They also looked for long-lived stars that are cooler than our sun.

Rather than focus on Earth clones, the team searched for planets that are more massive than our own. “One that is about 1.5 times Earth’s mass would be expected to retain its interior heating through radioactive decay longer and would also have a stronger gravity to retain an atmosphere over a longer time period,” said WSU in a statement on Monday

The team applied the criteria to 4,500 known exoplanets and identified 24 that came the closest to fitting the bill. None ticked all of the boxes, but they hint at the possibilities for life-friendly worlds beyond our own. 

There are a lot of unknowns when it comes to these potential paradises. “Habitability does not mean these planets definitely have life, merely the conditions that would be conducive to life,” WSU said. An even bigger